Berbatov inspires Bulgarian win
Bulgaria 3-0 Cameroon
Dimitar Berbatov scored twice as Bulgaria secured victory in their penultimate friendly international before UEFA EURO 2004™.
The Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker struck in the ninth and 53rd minutes, the latter from the spot, before Zdravko Lazarov completed the scoring with 35 minutes to play. "Obviously I'm delighted with the win," said coach Plamen Markov, whose side have lost in Greece and drawn with Russia this year. "The players responded well to criticism after those games and we fully deserved the victory."
Markov had spoken before the game of his desire to find a right-back capable of replacing Radostin Kishishev, who retired last year. Having tried a number of options, the coach brought Vladimir Ivanov into the side for his first international appearance since 1996. Ilian Stoianov stood in for Rosen Kirilov in central defence, while Lazarov and Velizar Dimitrov started ahead of regular midfield players Georgi Peev and Martin Petrov.
Cameroon arrived in Sofia just three hours before kick-off minus a number of key players: Samuel Eto'o, Lauren, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Geremi all failing to make the trip. Bulgaria took advantage from the off and applied considerable pressure which resulted in Berbatov opening the scoring. Lazarov created the goal, making strides down the left flank before finding the striker's head with a deft cross.
Berbatov went close to doubling his and Bulgaria's tally three minutes later, only to see his free-kick saved stunningly by the Cameroon goalkeeper Kaméni. Berbatov was not to be denied in the 53rd minute, however, as he stroked in a penalty. The 23-year-old even won the spot-kick, Lucien Mettomo of 1. FC Kaiserslautern handling his shot on the line; his final act of the match as the red card was brandished.
Petrov goes close
Cameroon's hopes of a fightback were dashed by that dismissal and within two minutes the scoreboard read 3-0 to the home side. Lazarov scored it, his first for Bulgaria, with a neat finish. The Africans surprisingly played their most enterprising football with the game lost, yet it was Markov's side which worked the next clear opening, Martin Petrov striking the post following a rapid counter.
The game ended on a sour note for Bulgaria, however, as captain Stilian Petrov damaged his ankle - an injury which is expected to keep him out for two to three weeks. The Celtic FC midfield player should be fit for Bulgaria's final friendly before Portugal, away against the Czech Republic on 2 June.